Is the seventh day Sabbath a ceremonial feast?

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By BibleAsk Team


In Christian theology, a common point of contention arises concerning the relationship between the weekly seventh day Sabbath, as outlined in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11), and the ceremonial feast days prescribed in the Mosaic law (Leviticus 23). Some argue that these observances are indistinguishable and that all aspects of the Mosaic law, and the seventh day Sabbath, were abolished with the coming of Christ.

However, a careful examination of biblical texts reveals a clear distinction between the weekly seventh day Sabbath and the yearly ceremonial Sabbath feast days. This comprehensive exploration seeks to elucidate this distinction, drawing upon New King James Version (NKJV) references, and affirming the enduring significance of the Sabbath in Christian faith and practice.

The Biblical Institution of the Seventh-Day Sabbath:

The Sabbath observance finds its origins in the creation narrative, where God rested on the seventh day and sanctified it as a day of rest and worship (Genesis 2:2-3 NKJV). This divine mandate was later codified in the Ten Commandments, the foundational moral law given to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV). The weekly Sabbath was instituted over 2000 years before the existence of Jews.

The Sabbath Commandment in the Decalogue:

The fourth commandment explicitly enjoins the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as a holy day of rest and worship: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV).

The Perpetual Nature of the Sabbath:

Throughout the Old Testament, the Sabbath is depicted as a perpetual covenant sign between God and His people, symbolizing their sanctification and allegiance to the Creator. Exodus 31:16-17 (NKJV) affirms the enduring significance of the Sabbath: “Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.” The seventh-day Sabbath is a sign between man and God (Ezekiel 20:12,20).

Distinction Between the Weekly Sabbath and Yearly Ceremonial Feast Days:

While the Sabbath is rooted in the creation ordinance and serves as a perpetual covenant sign, the ceremonial feast days outlined in the Mosaic law, such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, were instituted as commemorative and typological observances. Leviticus 23 provides a detailed account of these feast days and their associated rituals, emphasizing their significance in the religious calendar of ancient Israel.

The weekly seventh day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 8-11) is not one of the ceremonial yearly feast sabbaths of Leviticus 23. The Mosaic law had seven yearly holy days, which were also called sabbaths. These feasts were in addition to or “beside the Sabbaths of the Lord” or seventh day weekly Sabbath (Leviticus 23:38). The Bible presents two distinct laws: The Mosaic law and God’s moral law:

Mosaic law
Called “the law of Moses” (Luke 2:22).
Called “law … contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15).
Written by Moses in a book (2 Chronicles 35:12).
Placed outside the ark (Deuteronomy 31:26).
Ended at the cross (Ephesians 2:15).
Added because of sin (Galatians 3:19).
Contrary to us, against us (Colossians 2:14).
Judges no one (Colossians 2:14-16).
Carnal (Hebrews 7:16).

God’s law
Called “the law of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:24).
Called Ten Commandments-“the royal law” (James 2:8).
Written by God on stone (Exodus 31:18; 32:16).
Placed inside the ark (Exodus 40:20).
Will stand forever (Luke 16:17).
Points out sin (Romans 7:7; 3:20).
Not grievous (1 John 5:3).
Judges all people (James 2:10-12).
Spiritual (Romans 7:14).
Perfect (Psalms 19:7).

The Mosaic law was the temporary, ceremonial law of the Old Testament. It regulated the priesthood, sacrifices, feasts , rituals, meat and drink offerings, etc. This law was added “till the seed should come” and that seed was Christ (Galatians 3:16, 19). This law foreshadowed the cross and ended at the cross.

God’s moral law is not temporary it “stand[s] fast for ever and ever” (Psalms 111:8). God’s law has existed at least as long as sin has existed. The Bible says, “Where no law is, there is no transgression [or sin]” (Romans 4:15). According to the Bible, “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).

Thus, it is clear that the seventh day Sabbath is not part of the ceremonial law of Moses that ended at the cro

The Typological Nature of the Ceremonial Feast Days:

The ceremonial feast days served as foreshadows or types pointing forward to the redemptive work of Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 (NKJV) elucidates the typological significance of these observances: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

The Abolishment of the Ceremonial Law:

With the coming of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law, including sacrificial offerings and ritual observances, were fulfilled and rendered obsolete. Hebrews 10:1 (NKJV) contrasts the shadowy nature of the ceremonial law with the substance found in Christ: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.”

Jesus declared, ““Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one [b]jot or one [c]tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17,18).

The Sabbath in the New Testament:

Contrary to the ceremonial feast days, the Sabbath observance retains its significance in the New Testament era, with Jesus affirming its enduring relevance and spiritual significance. Mark 2:27-28 (NKJV) records Jesus’ words: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus expressly declared that He had not come to destroy the law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets” (Matthew 5:17). Instead of abolishing the Sabbath, He taught how it should be observed (Matthew 12:1-13). He taught His disciples that they should do nothing upon the Sabbath day but what was “lawful” (Matthew 12:12). And He instructed His apostles that the Sabbath would be kept forty years after His resurrection (Matthew 24:20).

The Book of Acts alone gives a record of Paul’s holding eighty-four meetings upon that day (Acts 13:14, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4,11). Paul declared, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:8,9).

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the distinction between the weekly seventh day Sabbath and the ceremonial feast days of the Mosaic law is evident in their respective origins, purposes, and theological significance. While the Sabbath is rooted in the creation ordinance and serves as a perpetual covenant sign, the ceremonial feast days were instituted as temporary, typological observances pointing forward to the redemptive work of Christ. As Christians, we recognize the fulfillment of the ceremonial law in Christ while affirming the enduring significance of the seventh-day Sabbath as a sacred day of rest, worship, and spiritual renewal.

For more on the Sabbath, please check (Lessons 91-102) of the Bible Lessons.

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